The launch of Bank Zero has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, however the new digital bank continues to sign on new customers as it works through beta testing and a closed rollout, says chief executive Yatin Narsai.
“We (are) continuing with our closed rollout for individuals and businesses as this works best under work-from-home conditions,” Narsai said. “Customer volumes are kept low to ensure smooth operations and to allow us to continue improving our banking platform.”
He added that trying to make changes in ‘full flight’ is difficult, but that the bank is now looking to increase its volumes with the next few batches of customers.
However, he cautioned that the situation remains “fluid”, as South Africa prepares for a third wave of Covid-19 cases heading into winter.
Narsai said that Bank Zero’s beta testing phase proved to be powerful and has given the company insights which it can integrate directly into its platform while still in the closed rollout.
“For example, we have completed our third generation of customer onboarding. Another example is our preparedness for large volumes and scale,” he said. “We have also upgraded our back-office systems to be even more operationally effective.”
This has led to staff becoming more productive, he said.
“Other projects that were planned for later have been brought forward with specific focus on supporting working from home banking operations.”
Still on track
Narsai confirmed that there have been no changes to the bank’s launch plans, which were announced at the end of 2020.
At the time, the group planned a move to a public launch some time in 2021, with the transition starting ‘early’ in the year. While this remains the plan for the bank, Narsai acknowledged the impact of the Covid-19 and lockdowns on its timelines.
“Our biggest challenge is the pandemic. Notwithstanding the severe conditions, we managed to retain our full value proposition. Our integrated core banking platform operating across six payment rails, provides an end-to-end view of money and other powerful innovations,” he said.
“It also caters for Bank Zero’s unique card patent which is live for some time now.”
He said that Bank Zero has decided to keep its pricing for 2021 the same as 2020, as efficiencies are passed on to customers and because the bank doesn’t use traditional IT systems that require large cost structures to support them.
“Most banks have basic/entry-level bank accounts at low fees and provides limited features. Bank Zero offers full functionality without further costs or account upgrades. Banking should be free,” he said.
Bank Zero only offers one account type because it doesn’t believe in the practice of luring customers in with an entry-level account that has limited functionality.
The same pricing structure is offered across individual and business banking. It currently supports (Pty) Ltds, CCs, and Sole Proprietors, with trusts and partnerships to be included at a later date.